Until recently I lived in an illusionary world where I believed that plants can feel pain. Or maybe I always wanted to believe that fact, JC Bose and his experiments being one the reasons. As a kid, I remember reading in some obscure kiddie journal that plants when subjected to Black Sabbath’s rock wilted and died whereas Beethoven nourished them, helping them live longer. But maybe science ultimately has triumphed and proven than plants cannot feel pain contradictory to your normative judgments. Vegetarians always cite the absence of a nervous system in a supposedly living organism as the determining factor for consumption for food. Neither do plants have certain defense mechanisms that help it to escape predators or run away from forest fires in California. So does this lack of survival advantage render the plants devoid of any sensation?
I have never knocked a nail into a tree (or at least until I believed I shouldn’t) because I feared that I might “hurt” the tree, defacing arguments apart. But a certain relationship has always never let me believe that plants cannot feel or convey emotions.
We have this droopy leafy green thing in a pot, sitting isolated in our hallway outside our door. Probably abandoned or neglected by its owners, it slowly started to wilt — one leaf turning brown at a time. Although I couldn’t drag the plant into our home, I once mustered up the nerve to water the plant. Since no plant welfare agency exists amongst the multitude of federal departments, I did not want to risk irking the possible owner of the plant who had doomed the poor plant to its fate.
As soon as the first drops hit the parched soil, it gave off a weird sucking sound (maybe the water broke through the air bubbles in the soil) but I could swear it almost felt like the sigh of relief. Almost like the thankful look of a person who has crawled across the desert and the first drops of almost-nectar like water hits his parched throat. I and my roomie took turns to water the plant whenever we left home and within days, the plant was green and fresh again. It had no beautiful flowers to bloom nor did it have a leafy spread of an ornamental plant to flaunt but the distinct look of life it had plenty.
Although I could be dreaming, I could almost see the plant smile and turn towards me, like a sunflower turns toward the sun, every time I walk past it. The plant still sits smugly in our hallway, swaying in the occasional wind and definitely content to have its share of water. Scientifically, plants may not sense pain but if “my” plant could speak I would definitely hear a grateful word or two.